Navy SEAL from Belchertown lands top honors

  • Petty Officer 1st Class James Mason was selected as the 2016 Naval Safety Center Sailor of the Year. U.S. Navy PHOTO

For the Gazette
Thursday, March 16, 2017

BELCHERTOWN — For the second year in a row, a Belchertown native Navy SEAL has taken top honors at his Virginia Naval unit.

Petty Officer 1st Class James Mason, a special warfare operator, was named 2016 Sailor of the Year for the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk.

“We have a saying in the SEAL Teams, ‘Let the sled dogs run,’” Mason said in a press release. “I simply learn from others and keep ‘running’ in the right direction — and I haven't felt a ‘tug on the leash’ yet.”

Receiving the Sailor of the Year recognition twice in a row is rare, according to Leslie Tomaino, a Naval Safety Center spokeswoman.

“From my career in the Navy, I have never seen anyone do that,” Tomaino said.

According to Tomaino, recipients of the award are generally those who take leadership and stick to the core values of honor, courage and commitment. The award program has acknowledged exceptional service members since 1972.

High motivation and a constant desire to improve helped Mason earn the award, Tomaino said.

“He does above and beyond what’s expected of a sailor,” she said. “What he does impacts so many people in a positive way,” Tomaino said. “You can tell that he’s a can-do kind of guy.”

Despite the award, Mason remains humble, glad for the opportunity to excel.

“The opportunities and responsibilities I hold allow me to make a positive influence across the entire Naval enterprise,” Mason said. “For that I am deeply grateful and proud.”